Tainan city councilors yesterday demanded that the city government investigate allegations that sunflowers harvested from fields contaminated by furnace slag might have been processed into cooking oil and entered the market.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Tainan city councilors Lin Yen-chu (林燕祝), Lin Mei-yen (林美燕) and Tseng Pei-ya (曾培雅) told a press conference that sunflowers were also grown in rice paddies in the city’s Syuejia District (學甲), which were allegedly contaminated by furnace slag dumped by a waste processing company.
A total of 181,000 tonnes of rice grown in the area was seized on Sunday, but the city government apparently did not know that sunflowers were also grown in the fields, so they were not included on the government’s investigation list, the councilors said.
Sunflowers are a popular source of cooking oil and it is feared that tainted products might have entered the market, Lin Yen-chu said, adding that the government was remiss in its handling of the investigation.
She said that an informant, who declined to be named or attend the press conference because of safety concerns, told her that sunflowers were harvested in the fields prior to the government raid.
The informant also reported the alleged dumping of furnace slag into the fields to Tainan authorities, but received a perfunctory response, so the informant reported the incident to the Bureau of Investigation’s Chiayi office, which uncovered the case on Friday last week.
Presenting images of nine properties allegedly owned by the company and another 39 properties owned by a company official surnamed Kuo (郭), Lin Yen-chu asked: “What was the purpose of purchasing so many properties in Syuejia? Why is a normal person buying that many properties there?”
The paddies where furnace slag was dumped were not listed under the name of the company or Kuo, but it is likely that the company used dummy accounts to purchase the properties and used them as dump sites, Lin Yen-chu said, urging the government to inspect those properties.
A senior executive at Tainan’s Agricultural Bureau, Lee Chien-yu (李建裕), told the press conference yesterday morning that he did not know about the sunflowers.
However, the bureau later said that the flowers were grown for viewing and used as farmyard compost only at the fields in question.
Tainan’s Environmental Protection Bureau said the complaints it received were all about suspected violations on industrial land rather than information about alleged dumping of furnace slag in farmlands.
It added that the company was suspended from operation.
Syuejia District Office said that the affected fields are registered as fish farms, and the exact timeline of the alleged slag-dumping and agricultural activities at the sites was not immediately known.
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